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NASA observes a rare Martian phenomenon – “It was hard to believe”

NASA observes a rare Martian phenomenon – “It was hard to believe”

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Suddenly the solar wind disappears and causes a rare phenomenon on Mars. An observation is worth its weight in gold for research.

SAN FRANCISCO – The Sun’s behavior affects not only Earth, but also other planets in our solar system. The Sun is constantly sending a stream of charged particles into space, which is called the “solar wind.” You do not notice the effect of these solar winds on the planets until they suddenly die down. And that’s exactly what happened in December 2022, as a NASA research team has now reported in a study.

NASA’s MAVEN space probe, which orbits Mars and studies its atmosphere, discovered that the solar wind on Mars suddenly “disappeared”, as in one of NASA announcement he is called. Without the pressure of the solar wind, Mars’ atmosphere and magnetosphere would have expanded by thousands of kilometres.

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is monitoring how the Martian atmosphere expands

“When we first saw the data and saw how dramatic the decrease in solar wind was, it was hard to believe,” Jasper Halikas (University of Iowa), lead author of the study, recalled in one of the articles. NASA announcement. The researcher continues: “We formed a working group to study the event and found that this period is rich in amazing insights.”

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft orbits Mars and monitors interactions between the probe and the red planet. (Avatar) © imago/StockTrek Images

In fact, the solar wind is always there, compressing the Martian atmosphere, and in the past may have caused the Red Planet to lose much of its atmosphere and water. However, in December 2022, the solar wind suddenly disappeared completely for some time due to a special event. Here’s what happened, according to NASA: A fast-moving solar wind overtook a slower solar wind, compressing both winds.

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Rare void around Mars – atmosphere expanding threefold

This created a rare void with very low solar wind density, which MAVEN observed. During this time, the intensity of the solar wind decreased by 100 times, and the pressure on the Martian atmosphere decreased accordingly. This allowed it to expand to more than three times its usual size. As a result, even stranger things happened on Mars: the red planet’s ionosphere switched from a magnetized state to a non-magnetized state, and at the same time the layer between the solar wind and the magnetosphere became unusually quiet electromagnetically, the research team reported.

The MAVEN space probe’s observations are worth their weight in gold for science: “We can now really see how Mars reacts when the solar wind is effectively removed,” says Halikas happily. “This is a fascinating study of what Mars would be like if it orbited a less ‘windy’ star.” It was the study In the specialized magazine JGR Space Physics published It was presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

NASA space probe monitors the interaction between the Sun and Mars

“Monitoring extreme conditions is invaluable to science,” said Shannon Carey, MAVEN lead researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “Maven was designed to observe these types of interactions between the Sun and the Martian atmosphere, and the probe provided exceptional data during this truly anomalous solar event.”

The disappearance of the solar wind to this extent is extremely rare and can only occur during periods of increased solar activity. The Sun is currently experiencing greater activity and is expected to reach its maximum activity in 2024. One researcher even assumes that the first peak of solar energy maximum has already been reached. (unpaid bill)